VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – As the government officially releases new, tougher cigarette packaging today, Statistics Canada has the latest numbers on how many of us are smoking. It appears we’re on a downward trend, especially among young people.

Teens are leading the way. In the last decade, smoking rates for those under 17-years-old dropped over 10 per cent. Among those 18 and 19-years-old, the drop has been even more pronounced — from one third to just one in five.

Tim Stockwell, Director of the Centre for Addictions Research of BC says there are a couple of reasons for this shift.

“Even the parents of teenage kids, most of them haven’t been smoking,” believes Stockwell. “So now parents are not modelling smoking.”

That can be seen in second-hand smoking stats as the number of those 12 and older who were regularly exposed to second-hand smoke at home dropped almost by half to 5.5 per cent.

“The other thing is that there is evidence that young people have so many other interesting things to spend their disposable income on, particularly texting, expensive cell phones, technology,” he adds.

Instead of connecting with friends over a cigarette, Stockwell thinks young people are opting for socializing using that expensive technology. He believes it will lead to an overall decline in smoking rates.

“This will be a cohort that goes through, so it should be another breakthrough. People were thinking we were stuck [at current smoking rates] for a while. This younger generation coming through is perhaps going to help us go down another level.”

He says at the same time rates of young people smoking marijuana have spiked but that may be on a downward trend as well.

Currently, fewer than one in five Canadians smoke, that’s down from over a quarter 10 years ago.  

Heavy smoking (25 of more cigarettes a day) has been on a downward trend, but light, daily smoking (fewer than 14 cigarettes a day) is increasing, especially among women.

Overall, the average number of cigarettes smoked per day fell from 17 in 2001 to 15 in 2011.